Francesca Pilo’ présentera ses travaux dans le cadre de la conférence « Urban property, governance and citizenship in the Global South » (Copenhague, 23-26 juin).
Interrogating the “right to the (electric) city” in Rio de Janeiro favelas through socio-technical systems
This article studies regularization of the electricity service in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, the aim of which is to transform “clandestine consumers” into “regular customers”. Using the regularization process’s socio-technical tools (Akrich 1987) as a vehicle, particularly electricity meters and the network, this article analyzes the process through which they produce a “normative network” and explains how this socio-technical regularization struggles to construct a relationship based on trust while producing a new power imbalance within the city. This analysis reveals a contradiction: by implementing service improvements, integrating favela residents into a public service and establishing a process that appears to promote the “right to the city” through the introduction of a “right to..”, the means of recognizing these city dwellers “by the network” are materially and symbolically guided by market forces. Not only does this shape the customer relationship, but it also redefines how favelas residents are recognized by the State. The aim of this article is to provide a different perspective on the relationship between the “right to the city” and urban services in the South that goes beyond the concepts of universalization and affordability, while focusing how these inhabitants are included in a “normative network” within the city.
This analysis is based on fieldwork conducted in Rio de Janeiro in 2010-2011, consisting of semi-structured interviews with 25 households in Santa Marta favela and with staff of the electricity distribution company. It is part of the author’s PhD thesis in Urban Planning defended in February 2015 at the Université Paris-Est (Pilo’ 2015).